Be Greeted Psychoneurotics

Be Greeted Psychoneurotics.*

Suffering, aloneness, self-doubt, sadness, inner conflict; these are our feelings that we have not learned to live with, that we have failed to appreciate, that we reject as destructive and completely negative, but in fact they are symptoms of an expanding consciousness. Dr. Kazimierz Dabrowski has spent 45 years piecing together the complete picture of the growth of the human psyche from primitive integration at birth; the person with potential for development will experience growth as a loosening of the stable psychic structure accompanied by symptoms of psychoneuroses. Reality becomes multileveled, the choices between higher and lower realms of behavior occupy our thought and mark us as human. Dabrowski called this process positive disintegration, he declares that psychoneurosis is not an illness and he insists that development does not come through psychotherapy but that psychotherapy is automatic when the person is conscious of his development.

To Dabrowski, real therapy is autopsychotherapy; it is the self being aware of the self through a long inner investigation; a mapping of the inner environment. There are no techniques to eliminate symptoms because the symptoms constitute the very psychic richness from which grow an increasing awareness of body, mind, humanity and cosmos. Dabrowski gives birth to that process if he can.

Without intense and painful introspection and reflection, development is unlikely. Psychoneurotic symptoms should be embraced and transformed into anxieties about human problems of an ever higher order. If psychoneuroses continue to be classified as mental illness, then perhaps it is a sickness better than health.

“Without passing through very difficult experiences and even something like psychoneurosis and neurosis we cannot understand human beings and we cannot realize our multidimensional and multilevel development toward higher and higher levels.” Dabrowski.

* From the Filmwest movie, Be Greeted Psychoneurotics.

Reprinted from the Introduction to Kazmierz Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration from William Tiller.

This entry was posted in Dabrowski, gifted adults, gifted children, gifted support, overexcitabilities. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Be Greeted Psychoneurotics

  1. Rick says:

    I like that. I’m going to have to NetFlix that one.

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Upon closer look, the passage isn’t from the movie, but the line, “Be Greeted Psychoneurotics” is.

    I can’t seem to find the actual movie (though I haven’t checked out Netflix).

    The line also comes from the poem here:

    However, if you want to know more about the Dabrowski’s work, you can check out the link in the original post above. There’s a wealth of information about his work there. William Tiller was a student of Dabrowski’s and is doing his best to preserve and disseminate Dabrowski’s work. Dabrowski is quite frequently referred to in the gifted community. Mostly he is better known for the overexcitabilities, but they comprise only one part of the story, the other part is the process by which one develops.

    At each stage, there is a disintegrative process by which former beliefs by which a person lives by (those that we adopt from our parents, our teachers, and other influences) stops “working” for us and so we come to the realization that what we need to re-formulate new “beliefs” for ourselves.

    He rejected the idea that higher levels of development were built upon lower ones. He believed that one must break down the “lower psychological “structures completely and then rebuild. If you get through this process successfully, you are at a higher level. If you don’t, you could end up getting stuck in…well, madness, I think.

    You know, when we were kids, we perhaps thought our parents and teachers held the ultimate answers for everything, only as we grew older we realized that we have our own ideas about what we believe.

    His theory is quite interesting. He based his theories on Plato (the Allegory of the Cave is a key concept), Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche.

    It’s very fascinating stuff and to me, makes a helluva lot of sense in the context of my life.

  3. Hello there. This is Bill Tillier. I’d be happy to have a dialogue and address any questions you may have.
    The line be greeted Psychoneurotics was the title of a poem Dabrowski wrote which appears on my website. In addition, he titled one of his major books psychoneuroses is not an illness. I have a DVD containing all of Dr. Dabrowski’s original works as well as the film West interview and another series of interviews that was videotaped at the University of Alberta. Thanks very much, Bill.

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Hello Mr. Tillier,

    What an honor it is to have you as a guest in my online home.

    Thank you so much for stopping by and offering to discuss this. I’m a big admirer of your (and Dr. Dabrowski’s) work. I had a discussion once going on a message board once about your work and I have been wanting to explore more of it. I have had other little writing projects (unpaid, volunteer, for ‘fun’ and intellectual growth) distracting me, on another of my blogs – – which is my own exploration of philosophy, psychology and literature, but I’d like to highlight your work there.

    One a related note, I’ve been engaged in an informal literary exploration with a dear internet friend of mine and have come up with the same conclusion that psychoneurosis is not an illness, though our newfound knowledge doesn’t seem to matter to our nearest and dearest. They still think we are rather crazy, too sensitive, too intense, too hyper, too anxious.

    However, finding ‘true peers’ with whom appropriate validation, intense intellectual exchange, and ‘mirroring’ with, one is hard pressed to prove it. My friend had gone 51 years without finding a ‘true peer’. I’m the closest he’s come…and I’m not nearly as intelligent as he.

    Yes, I have had some questions…but of course, I’m not quite prepared to ask any yet.

    Let me get back to you on that.

    Thanks again.

  5. J says:

    I have been reading about Dabrowski’s theories for years — reading what he wrote about positive disintegration was like coming home. I was diagnosed (sic) as “gifted” when I was young and have been disappointing parents, teachers, myself ever since — though my inner progress has been … what? poignant? surreal? intensely painful?

    Anyhow, I surfed by and am very glad I came this far down the comments. I would give 10 years of my life to spend the next 5 talking to someone (anyone) who understands how it feels to live in this dull world and whose inner truth is so completely out of sync with most people.

    I’m pretty reasonable on the outside; employed, have a home and good friends but you know that analogy of the iceberg with 90% hidden? I have just spent six months agonizing over a next step in life — contemplating every drastic option a person could — from post graduate studies to starting my own business to going back to the monastery where I spent a year to throwing myself off a building as a final drastic comment on how we’re racing to an impending environmental disaster and why is no one talking about this???

    In any case, I came here looking for maybe group therapy of some kind — a place to talk, a place to find others — they say that bright goes to university but gifted drops out — I’ve looked in the universities but I find either people who have the right mix of socioeconomic background / basic smarts / good time management and they have been “successful”, or, I find people who are genuinely what I am so arrogant as to call “truly alive” or “trying to wake up” — but they’re invested in the power structure — have made the choice to conform, etc and I’m actually envious that they were able to make that choice, and live with it. I’m kinda of halfway — university grad, good job, etc but to me this feels like a kind of purgatory. Nice to have a home, though, and a car, and money to buy the books I want, etc.

    I have gone all over the map here in this Rant Tangent — sorry, I don’t even know the way back to my original point. Looking forward to reading more on your site. Wishing you strength and the same serendipity I am looking for — in your own journey….

    • John M. says:

      I really enjoyed what you had to say, “J,” especially with regard to the iceberg–seems a very apt metaphor for the problem of “seeing” and knowing too much, which is the way that I’ve come to regard this particular problem. Often I feel that I see things in my environment that are largely invisible to the vast majority of people around me–for example, “seeing” the illusions by which others make peace with their surroundings and enable their minds to normalize dysfunctional situations. I keep putting the word “see” in quotes because it’s not premonitions or spontaneous insights that I refer to (though we may well experience these as well), but the inner workings of how people and their situations connect and intertwine. So while what I refer to is a vision of sorts, a way of “seeing” the environment we inhabit, it’s also a “knowing” and an understanding of how that environment functions and the rules that govern the interactions that take place in that environment.

      I also like your use of the word “rant,” which is the way that I sometimes refer to my own writings, particularly when the thoughts are arriving much faster than I can write them down.

      I’d also like to say that I only just stumbled onto this blog this morning, and I can’t wait to start combing through the rest of the posts. And if anyone is interested in taking a stroll through my particular vision of things, I invite you to visit my blog at:

      I’m just getting started, and there’s nowhere near as much content as there is on this site, but I’d love to get some feedback. Enjoy!

      • raisingsmartgirls says:

        “Often I feel that I see things in my environment that are largely invisible to the vast majority of people around me–for example, “seeing” the illusions by which others make peace with their surroundings and enable their minds to normalize dysfunctional situations.”

        I recommend reading Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child. She makes a compelling argument for how easy it is to normalize dysfunctional situations and how this is passed down through the generations. Poisonous pedagogy – from simple spanking to downright child abuse – becomes the basis for this tolerance.

        “Poisonous pedagogy, in Katharina Rutschky’s definition, aims to inculcate a social superego in the child, to construct a basic defense against drives in the child’s psyche, to toughen the child for later life, and to instrumentalize the body parts and senses in favor of socially defined functions. Although not explicitly, “poisonous pedagogy” serves, these theorists allege, as a rationalization of sadism and a defense against the feelings of the parent himself or of the person involved.[2]”

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    J – Welcome!

    I totally understand rant tangents. I also understand the iceberg analogy as well as the urge to hurl oneself off high buildings. I was in the Honors program in middle school and high school and at university. We didn’t call it ‘gifted’ back then.

    I’ve compromised with conforming. I rebelled against my family and did everything I could to not assimilate with their blatantly mixed-up values (very prejudiced, and valuing money and possessions over people, hypercritical and controlling – in some ways, a good preparation for the real world), but in order to become independent from them, I realized I had to invest in my education. I found a better reception for my thoughts/ideas from my teachers and professors and guidance counselor…though this was also a LONG time ago, and I got great teachers who were enthusiastic about teaching. Maybe I was just naive or I got lucky, but my teachers appreciated me in ways my family never did. So, I guess at least there, I thrived. Well, except my last semester at high school. I had a really close-minded math teacher AND my mother didn’t want me to go away to university (she wouldn’t be able to keep tabs on me), so in response, I got mad and deliberately failed one class because I was aggravated and hurt.

    After that though, I realized I hurt myself more than made any kind of point. The only thing it really accomplished was dropping my GPA. Not that it really hurt in the long run. Fortunately at the time, I didn’t need the credit and it didn’t hurt me.

    At university, I had to live at home and commute to a satellite campus of a big university. I knew I was interested in science and more importantly, I’d be able to become self-sufficient. I came seriously close to dropping out between sophomore/junior year because of continued family strife, but I’m SO glad I didn’t. I DID move out of my family’s house for 2 months…but then came back home to finish my degree. Again, I had the nagging feeling that I was hurting myself more than anything.

    When you realize you can NOT accept defeat…if it means you will go back to an extremely, unpleasant living arrangement, you learn to do what you have to do.

    But…I have run into the problem now of finding appropriate challenge, appropriate understanding and appropriate friendship because I am so unlike any other housewives around here.

    I don’t think you have to give 10 years to spend the next 5 talking with someone who understands. I have a few ideas. It’s a multi-faceted approach.

    1. For more community…you can join My Gifted Life.

    It’s a non-exclusive gifted message board. Meaning you don’t need test scores to join. We could use more members. Your input would be appreciated.

    2. Bibliotherapy. I can’t say what will work for you…but I have thoroughly enjoyed Hermann Hesse’s Demian and Steppenwolf, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Poet’s Guide to Life, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Irvin Yalom’s When Nietzsche Wept and Staring at the Sun (existential psychotherapy) and Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness.

    I’m also reading Solitude: A Return to the Self, by Anthony Storr, and Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra.

    All of these are great for the highly sensitive/gifted/creative/nonconformist. Yes, written by men. I just connect better with men, than with women.

    3. If you don’t already do so, write. You can get some of your frustration and angst out by writing. I’m in contact with Mr. Tillier. Dr. Dabrowski suggested 1) writing your autobiography and 2) autotherapy. I’m really interested in getting more information from Mr. Tillier regarding autotherapy. Dabrowski has a 400-page manuscript on autotherapy I can’t wait to read.

    4. Blog. I’d love to hear more of your interests/passions/point of view. I think blogging is a terrific way to take a peek inside other minds.

    5. Volunteer for social causes…anything to put your intelligence to good use on the problems that vex you. You might decide you can make a career out of it.

    6. Find a mentor. Preferably someone about 10 years older than you in a field you might be interested in. You can’t pick what you want to do next until you talk to someone/see what they do and get a good FEEL for it.

    7. Go visit your grandparents…or old people in a nursing home. One day you’ll be that old. Sooner than you think. Old people have the best stories sometimes… 🙂
    When my grandparents forgot who I was…it was even more fun. Yeah, I’d play along and they’d say really funny stuff.

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